Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Interwoven Guitar Mastery of "Kreisberg meets Veras"

Nelson Veras and Jonathan Kreisberg: Kreisberg Meets Veras NFM 0005

There have been some stellar guitar collaborations over the years; some come to mind- Coryell and McLaughlin, Herb Ellis and Joe Pass, Jim Hall and Pat Metheny and John Abercrombie and Ralph Towner to name just a few. The latest duo of note is Jonathan Kreisberg and Nelson Veras as heard on their latest release Kreisberg meets Veras. These two are a revelation. They have an interwoven sound that is remarkably attuned to each other's instincts. A collaboration that deserves further exploration.

Born in New York City, Jonathan Kreisberg studied at The University of Miami from 1990-1994. He returned to his hometown in 1998 after playing an assortment of musical genres mostly centered on prog-rock and jazz fusion.  He immersed himself into the more traditional aspects of jazz guitar, eschewing his Stratocaster in favor of the rounder, mellower sound of a Gibson hollow-bodied guitar. He built up his chops finding work with artists like drummer Lenny White, saxophonist Joel Frahm and organist Dr. Lonnie Smith. He also formed a trio with drummer Ari Hoenig and bassist Johannes Weidenmueller. I first caught wind of this guitarist after hearing his album Shadowless from 2010 and later his solo album One from 2013, both excellent outings.

Brazilian guitarist Nelson Veras is new to me. He was apparently “discovered” by Pat Metheny when the then adolescent had moved from his native Salvador de Bahia, Brazil to France. Veras playing is rooted in the lilting Brazilian guitar-style of Joao Gilberto with a touch of Baden Powell’s fleet fingering.

Kreisberg plays electric guitar and Veras plays nylon-stringed guitar so the two sounds are tonally complimentary, never clashing with each other.“Lina Rising” is a marvelously layered composition by Kreisberg that allows these two string-masters to dance with each other in a delicate but swaying movement. It is thoroughly enjoyable to listen to the two exchange vastly different ideas on the same theme.

“Until You Know” has a faint hint of gypsy-jazz guitar feel to it. The two play synchronous lines with effortless ease. Kreisberg’s lines are particularly fluid, complex and harmonically aggressive and Veras comps behind him with polished aplomb. When Veras solos, his warmer sound is precise and a bit more romantic in its approach.

The third Kresiberg original, “Every Person is a Story,” is a dreamlike gemstone. Kreisberg’s guitar is made to sound like a harp descended from heaven. Played with exquisite sensitivity, it shimmers with a beauty that is hard not to be moved by.

The duo continues with some more familiar compositions like Monk’s “Bye-Yah,” a twisted exchange of ideas around the quirky Monk melody. Veras’ solo is particularly inventive with unexpected chicanery.  

Milton Nascimento's “Milagre Dos Pleixes” is right in Veras’ wheelhouse. He sets the scene with a miniature intro of classically inspired six-string beauty. The two guitarists latch onto the filigreed melody with some gorgeous finger-picked lines by Veras before Kreisberg launches into a dazzling saxophone-like solo that soars with inspiration.

Charlie Mingus’ “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” is probably one of the most played jazz standards in the canon and for good reason, it is a nostalgic homage to a past master, Lester Young. The two guitarists play it with appropriate reverence. Veras takes the first solo and simply plays so beautifully and with so much feeling that you can’t help but be moved. When Kreisberg solos, he adds crescendos of notes that descend from the air-like freshly fallen snow, lingering for just a second before evaporating into the atmosphere.

Chick Corea’s classic “Windows,” a perfect vehicle for the two guitarists feature a quick-paced and changing rhythm that is the ideal backdrop on which to improvise. The exchange never reaches the fever pitch of the Coryell/McLaughlin duel on the album Spaces, but then these two seem more content to seamlessly integrate the music of their respective instruments into a coherent whole rather than make a show of speed for speed’s sake.

The final cut on this fine album is an obscure Wayne Shorter composition “Face on The Barroom Floor.”  The piece is played at a slow deliberate tempo to allow the nuances of the two guitarist’s interplay to be fully appreciated. Veras lays down the beautiful chordal accompaniment as Kriesberg’s electric guitar simply takes us on a flight of fantasy. Toward the end, Kriesberg introduces a modulating electric sound on his guitar that is otherworldly, fading out at the coda like a sighing last breadth.

Jonathan Kreisberg and Nelson Veras are two of the finest contemporary guitarists on the scene today. Kreisberg meets Veras is an excellent guitar duo album that is destined to become a part of every serious guitarist’s treasured musical library. 

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